Brand Sets Sights on Paris-Roubaix Podium

With her many conquests on her cyclo-cross bike, Lucinda Brand is among the most agile and powerful riders in the peloton. Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift offers the perfect setting for her to display her unique skills. This was apparent in the 2022 edition, when she joined her Trek-Segafredo partner Elisa Longo Borghini on the podium, a year after Lizzie Deignan had brought the American squad a first victory in the Hell of the North. As Trek-Segafredo get ready to defend their triumph, Brand shares her personal ambitions and some insight into her team’s recipe for Roubaix.

You returned to competition a week ago. How did you make the transition from cyclo-cross?

It was not so complicated. After a little bit of rest, I focused a lot on getting some hours into the legs because it can be hard to do so during the cyclo-cross season. And of course the last few days before I started racing again, I also did some intensity but it was a tight schedule. The races I do now before Roubaix are also part of the preparation. In a race, you always push a bit further so it was a pity not to finish Gent-Wevelgem, in addition to crashing never being so nice, but it was smarter not to continue. In the first moments, I felt I had hit my head so I didn’t want to take any risk there. Luckily it was not too bad. Besides some pain in my neck, I’m okay. I just need to train a little bit harder then!

It was already your plan last year to build up through races towards Paris-Roubaix but you’ve had some challenges over the winter with crashes and sickness. Are you on the right track to perform in the Hell of the North?

It’s definitely a different winter and I felt like I came out of it with a lower base level than I did last year. Right before I had to restart training, I also got a little bit sick again so luck is definitely not on my side but we make the best of it. We were happily surprised with how I raced De Panne. It was already better than I expected. It’s not the same as last year but it’s good already and I also know things can turn very quickly…

Like Elisa Longo Borghini last year. She was unsure about her condition and she went on to win Roubaix…

Exactly! It’s about having patience. Every day I feel a bit fresher, a bit better, so this is good. Anyway, the situation is how it is, we can’t change it anymore so we’ll make the best out of it. I’m quite lucky to be handy in the bunch so I can save some energy. Of course, it really helps, especially in races like Roubaix, and you can use that energy in the end.

Lizzie Deignan won the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift for Trek-Segafredo and Elisa Longo Borghini finished 3rd. Last year, Elisa won and you came 3rd… What’s the ambition for 2023?

The ambition is to try to win this race one time for myself, and anyway the team starts with the ambition to win the race again of course. It’s something that really lives in our group. Everybody, also in the service course, works for us to have the best equipment, to be super prepared. We know the course and we have the confidence. Something bad can always happen, like we were unlucky in Gent-Wevelgem, but I’m really confident we can aim for the win again. It won’t be easy, it never is, there’s a lot of other strong riders… But it’s great to have the support of the team.

How do you explain Trek-Segafredo’s success in Roubaix? Does it come down to the team culture? Yes, maybe… The guys responsible for the material really work hard for us to have the best set up. It gives extra confidence to the riders. For us, the girls, we get a lot of experience from the men. Next to that, I think we have some experienced riders who are used to riding in the bunch and who know how to ride the cobbles. All these pieces come together. There’s always a nice atmosphere in the group, it gives a good energy. It’s not that we don’t have this energy in other races, but it has given us this extra bit that has worked out super well in Roubaix.

What kind of specific work and recons do you do for Paris-Roubaix?

They’ve done some testing on the bikes already and as far as I know, we stick with the settings from last year because it worked really well. If something is good, you don’t change it. We’ll do part of the course after Flanders. Other years, some of us did extra recons in the winter but this year we didn’t. It’s also sometimes really hard to fit in the schedule but we’re definitely doing it next week. Riding all those classics, you train already to ride on the cobbles… Although the cobbles of Roubaix are not the same as in Belgium, definitely not! The shape, the grinding, the space between the stones… The first time, I think everybody was shocked about it but now we know.

What are the individual skills essential for a rider to perform in Roubaix?

First of all, you need to be not afraid. Getting into the first sections is a huge fight. Last year, it was something different than any other race. You have to trust your teammates and you need good communication to stay together. Once you hit the cobbles, it’s very important to stay relaxed. If your head is cool, your body is more relaxed and you have a better overview to look ahead, anticipate. Your shoulders are not tight, your bike is dancing under you on the cobbles. Then you make sure you apply pressure on the right parts of the bike. And push hard!

Lucinda Brand Facts: (Trek-Segafredo)

Born on July 2, 1989 in Dordrecht (the Netherlands)

Teams: Leontien.nl (2009-2010), AA Drink-Leontien.nl (2011-2012), Rabobank-Liv (2013-2016), Sunweb (2017-2019), Trek-Segafredo (2020-2023)

 

Major results:

Cyclo-cross World Champion (2021)

Winner of the Cyclo-cross World Cup (2021, 2022)

3rd of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift (2022)

Winner of the Tour de Suisse (2022)

Winner of the Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour (2021)

Winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2017)

Winner of the Grand Prix de Plouay (2014)

National Dutch Champion in cyclo-cross (2018, 2019) and on the road (2013, 2015)

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